Semi Ojeleye (Photo by Matt Visinsky)

Game Preview: SMU at UCF

PonyStampede's Phil Mayer previews SMU's road test against UCF.

When: Wednesday, January 26th at 5 PM C.T. 

Where: CFE Arena (Orlando, FL). 

TV/Radio: ESPNEWS/KAAM 770

Series: Tied 6-6. (Two SMU wins in 2013-14 were vacated)

Last Meeting: SMU won 88-73

Pony Trends

SMU kept on rolling with a home win over Houston on Saturday night. The Mustangs have now won their last three games since losing in Cincinnati and 13 of their last 14. SMU has maintained an impressive streak of holding their opponents under 70 points as they have done so in each of their last 14 games. The Ponies have been moving the ball extremely well lately; they assisted on 25 of their 30 buckets against Houston. Their ball movement has created open three-point looks for their shooters, who have taken advantage. 

Jarrey Foster left the last game with an injury, after taking a shot to the head while drawing a charge. He may not play in against UCF, in which case Ben Emelogu will likely take his spot in the starting lineup.

Scouting UCF

UCF has put together a solid season, emerging as one of the top teams in the AAC. They are currently sporting a 14-5 overall record, and are 5-2 in conference play. UCF is a great defensive team; they are third in the nation in points allowed per game, giving up just 59.2 per contest. The Knights are nothing special on the offensive end, scoring 69.4 points per game on 44.4% shooting. 

UCF Players to Watch

C Tacko Fall: Fall is a giant. The Senegalese sophomore stands at 7-foot-6, making him the biggest player in the NCAA right now. Nearly every shot that Fall takes goes into the basket; as he is currently sporting a field goal percentage of 78.5%. Fall is also a force in the paint on defense, averaging 2.5 blocks per game. He does struggle from the free throw line, at just 47.6%. Unlike some big men who's minutes are very limited, Fall plays a solid 26.6 minutes per game, including a 37 minute performance against Villanova. Fall, who is currently averaging 13.2 points per game and 10.5 rebounds, will be a tough task for SMU to manage. 

G B.J. Taylor: Taylor is UCF's best offensive guard, averaging 16 points per game and 4.3 assists. He missed some time with a broken thumb earlier in the season, but has had no trouble regaining his stroke, scoring double digits in four of the five games since his return.

G Matt Williams: UCF's redshirt senior guard is having his best season, averaging 15.9 points per game. He has not been terribly efficient, shooting just 38.6% from the field on the season. Williams is a major threat from beyond the arc, attempting 9.8 threes per game and shooting them at a 38.5% clip. Williams had a career-high 38 points against USF two games ago. 

Projected UCF Starters:

G B.J. Taylor

G Matt Williams

G Tank Efianayi 

G A.J. Davis

C Tacko Fall

Projected SMU Starters:

G Shake Milton

G Ben Emelogu/Jarrey Foster

G Sterling Brown

F Ben Moore

F Semi Ojeleye

Matchup to Watch

Tacko Fall vs. Ben Moore: Moore will have his hands full with the gigantic Fall, and will need to work hard to keep him off the glass. Moore has shown a reliable mid-range jumpshot, and will need to hit a couple from out there to drag Fall away from the paint if UCF is in man defense. Moore has also been successful attacking off the dribble, and should be able to do that against the slower Fall. 

Keys to the Game

Tacko Fall is sporting an abysmal 0.24 assist-to-turnover ratio, so SMU may look to double team him when he catches the ball in the post, and force him to try to pick them apart. Rebounding has been one of SMU's strengths this year, but UCF is one of the two teams ahead of them in rebounding margin. SMU has to crash the glass and try to win the battle on the boards to stop the Knights. 


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